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Monday, 9 November 1964

Senator MORRIS (Queensland) , - As we have been told by the Minister who introduced the Bill into the Senate and as we have seen from the speech of the Minister in another place, this is a very short Bill but a very important one. I think we can claim justifiably that all the legislation that comes before us is important, because it must be considered from the aspect of its long term effect on our country. I have read the amendment that has been proposed by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna). I think it is fair to say that the net effect of his amendment would be to negative the Bill because it suggests the postponement of the Bill for an indefinite period. Do we want to postpone the action contemplated in the Bill? 1 can see a great deal of merit in it.

As honorable senators know, over the years I have been more interested in the State sphere than in the Federal sphere. It is only recently that I have become interested in the Federal sphere. Having had a principal interest in the State aspect, X have always disliked intensely the possibility that a change in population could mean that, even though the population of a State increased, that State could lose a representative in the Parliament. That is a very bad policy to adopt and a very bad principle to follow. As I read the Bill, it gives us protection against that loss. For that reason I support it. I oppose the amendment for the simple reason that it is a negative rather than an alternate proposal.

It has been interesting to hear the comments of honorable senators on the situation of the Senate. When the Leader of the Opposition was speaking I agreed very firmly, by interjection, with the view that he expressed that we do not want the Senate to be unduly enlarged. Quite frankly, I was amazed to know, although I should have known, that each of the 50 States of America has fewer representatives in the American Senate than an Australian State has in the Australian Senate. The Senate bears a tremendously important responsibility and I believe that it has been able to discharge that responsibility adequately. It has been of considerable interest to me to learn how senators are able to advance the interests of their own States. There seems to be different atmospheres in the upper and lower Houses in the States. Perhaps that can be said to exist in the Federal sphere as well. A senator has a very important task to perform. He is not restricted in his activities in the same way as a member of the House of Representatives is restricted, even by courtesy. A senator can roam the whole State that he represents. He can, therefore, do his work much more effectively than if he were restricted to a particular area. My own experience in this field over the past 12 months has been rather unique. I have broken away from what could almost be called a tradition of using an office in the capital city and have moved into an area 1,000 miles away. It brings one closer to the problems that exist in an area if one lives there.

Let us suppose that as a result of a change in population we in Queensland were deprived of one seat in the House of Representatives. We would be deprived possibly of the services of some one who had obtained wide experience in looking after his electorate and who, over the years, had served what one might call an apprenticeship in the Parliament. I would be very much opposed to that. Therefore, 1 can only repeat that I am in favour of the Bill and, being in favour of the Bill, obviously I am very strongly opposed to any proposed amendment which will delay the Bill becoming law. In what I am about to say now, I am stating only my own opinion. This Bill has not been before us long enough for me even to consider the opinions of others. However, I would infinitely prefer a policy which would remove any likelihood of Queensland losing a member, even though, as the Leader of Opposition said, it could obtain an additional member if the remainder after the population had been divided by the quota were only one.

Since I started my parliamentary career I have seen a tremendous change in the demands made on a member of Parliament. If one goes back 40 years, which is twice the period that I have been in politics, I think one will find that the members of those days had very light duties to perform, but when I commenced my political career I was surprised to discover how fully occupied you were if you did what you felt to be your duty, and did it well. In those 20 years things have changed enormously. I suppose if we had twice as many members in the House of Representatives and in the State Parliaments, they could all, if they were conscientious, employ their time to very good advantage in the development of Australia. One of my greatest regrets, I must admit, is the inability to cover the huge areas that we have in Queensland. I am certain that all honorable senators will agree with me when I say that we do not ever go anywhere within our electorate, whether it is a small part of or the whole State, without finding that we are learning something, or without being able to do some good for somebody or to help somebody. We can improve the legislation which comes before us for consideration because of the knowledge we gain from our travels. That is our job. Therefore, I say again: Give me always the opportunity to retain members rather than be deprived of them as we would have been but for the introduction of this Bill.

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